ON STAGE

An occasional update of New York theater happenings

* KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN (At the Broadhurst Theatre): Vanessa Williams continues to surprise. She replaces Chita Rivera in the fantasy-figure title role of the Hal Prince musical (adapted from the Manuel Puig novel and subsequent film), and is proving to have a remarkable stage presence. Although the role is more posing than acting, Williams's dynamism, gorgeous singing, and star value make for an impressive Broadway debut. On the down side, Williams doesn't dance as well as Rivera, and she lacks her predecessor's theatrical history, which invested the role of Aurora with a critical resonance. Still, her presence has boosted the show's box office once again to sellout levels, and her contract, which was due to end shortly, has been extended to the end of the year. * JELLY ROLL! (At the 47th Street Theatre): After a run of over a year at Michael's Pub, this celebration of the life and music of Jelly Roll Morton has transferred to an Off Broadway theater. It features Vernel Bagneris (who created the acclaimed ``One Mo' Time'') as Morton, with a book adapted from the composer's own taped reminiscences. Included are more than two dozen Morton compositions performed by Bagneris in his slinky style. Morten Gunnar Larsen, a truly virtuosic pianist, leaves audiences cheering with his performance of the aptly named ``Fingerbreaker.'' Although the show doesn't compare theatrically to the more ambitious ``Jelly's Last Jam'' (which will be touring the United States in a production starring Maurice Hines this year), it offers a better representation of Morton's music, and a more sympathetic portrait of the man who considered himself to be the inventor of jazz.

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